Martina Navratilova and John McEnroe are both tennis legends, and both have worked as commentators for the BBC during Wimbledon. But, Navratilova said recently, McEnroe gets “at least 10 times as much money” from the network for doing so, a situation that came as a “shock” when she learned of it.
In an interview on the BBC investigative show “Panorama” that aired Monday, Navratilova said she was paid “about 15,000 pounds” for providing analysis during the tournament, adding that “unless John McEnroe’s doing a whole bunch of stuff outside of Wimbledon,” he was receiving far higher compensation. Last year, the BBC published for the first time a list of its highest-compensated personalities, and McEnroe was shown as making between 150,000 pounds and 199,999 pounds as a sports “pundit.”
Navratilova said she had asked the BBC if she was earning a “comparable amount to a man doing a similar job,” and said she was told that was the case. “So, yeah, we were not told the truth, that’s for sure,” she said.
Navratilova added that she was “not happy” about the “shocking” disparity, but that in her case it was in regard to a “part-time job” involving two weeks of her life. “But for the women that work there full-time,” she said of the BBC, “maybe the discrepancy’s not that large, but it adds up over a lifetime, it adds up to an amazing amount of money.
“So it’s extremely unfair, and it makes me angry for the other women that I think go through this.”
In a statement, the BBC said that “John and Martina perform different roles in the team, and John’s role is of a different scale, scope and time commitment.” The network claimed that whereas Navratilova was paid per appearance and had a defined amount of work, McEnroe was on call for all two weeks of Wimbledon, was used on more platforms and was contractually barred from any appearances for other British broadcasters without the BBC’s permission.
“Panorama” said it estimated that McEnroe made three times as many appearances for the BBC than Navratilova during Wimbledon last year. Asked about the network possibly asserting that their pay gap was related to him being on the air more often or working longer hours, she said, “10 times as much? I don’t think so.”
“He is a defining voice within the BBC’s coverage,” the network said of McEnroe (via the AP). “He is widely considered to be the best expert/commentator in the sport, highly valued by our audiences. … His pay reflects all of this; gender isn’t a factor.”
“Panorama” was speaking to Navratilova for an episode titled, “Britain’s Equal Pay Scandal,” which examined how women in many walks of life do not get paid as much as men for doing the same or similar jobs. The BBC reported last year that men working for the network made 9.3 percent more than women, but noted that was far better than the average disparity in the United Kingdom of 18 percent.
A similar situation exists in the United States, where the median salary for women working full-time is about 80 percent of that enjoyed by men. At a news conference Monday in Chicago to promote a tennis event, McEnroe said that “if necessary,” he would “respond” to questions about the pay gap, but that “this isn’t the place to discuss it.”
“The BBC, to my understanding, has responded and I believe in an appropriate way, at least for what has been said so far,” McEnroe said (via the AP). “But if this keeps up and people think this is a story in a couple of days, I’m sure at some point I’ll have something to say about it.”
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